First detection of carbon dioxide in an exoplanet

Finding bodes well in searching for life signatures beyond the solar system

12:33pm, November 21, 2008

Moving one step closer to finding the fingerprints of life in a habitable planet beyond the solar system, astronomers have for the first time detected carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet that orbits a star other than the sun.

The extrasolar planet and its star lie about 63 light-years from Earth. A gaseous body slightly bigger than Jupiter, the orb circles its parent star at a proximity that renders it far too hot to support life. But the finding bodes well for ultimately detecting carbon dioxide and other potential markers of life in planets that do lie far enough from their parent stars to be habitable, says Mark Swain of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

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